The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Saturday, 25 October 2008

India-Lanka discussions on situation in island nation tomorrow

India and Sri Lanka will have high-level discussions on the situation in the island nation, particularly concerning the well-being of ethnic Tamils, here tomorrow amid mounting pressure on government from some Tamil parties to act.
Basil Rajapaksa, Special Adviser of the Sri Lankan President, will hold talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee during which he is expected to spell out the measures being taken by Colombo to ensure safety of civilians while undertaking the military campaign against the LTTE.

Basil, who will also meet National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon during his day-long visit, is expected to bring a message from President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his intentions.

The Sri Lankan President, during a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last Saturday, assured him that "all necessary measures" are being taken to ensure safety and well-being of the Tamil community in the island nation.

Fearing that civilian Tamils in Sri Lanka may become victims of circumstances, the Indian side is keen to know what steps the Rajapaksa government is taking and planning to take to ensure their safety amidst raging conflict between the military and LTTE in north of the island nation.

Singh has already told the Sri Lankan President to ensure that the rights of civilian Tamils are not compromised and they do not get "enmeshed" in the conflict.

The fact that Sri Lanka is sending a high-ranking envoy here to discuss the situation is seen here as "seriousness" being attached by Colombo to keep New Delhi posted on happenings in that country.

The UPA government is facing intense pressure from its key constituent DMK and some other Tamil parties to act to end conflict in Sri Lanka.


India must stop military assistance to Lanka demands Communist Party of India

CPI(Communist Party of India) today demanded that India should stop military assistance to Sri Lanka and reopen and renegotiate an agreement that provides rights to Indian fishermen in the international waters between the two countries. Party MP D Raja said whether lethal or non-lethal any assistance provided to Sri Lanka now now would be used in war and this would be construed as a "collaboration" in the "offensive" against Tamils by that country.
He said the government has not not come clean on the issue and on the rights of the Indian fishermen under the Katchathivu agreement of 1974.

Raja said the government use its good offices with the Sri Lankan president Rajapakse and bring about a ceasefire and a political solution to the problem of ethnic Tamils.


Karunanidhi condemns attack on Rajiv statue

Condemning the attack on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's statue at suburban Kodungayur, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said strict action will be taken against those responsible for the "grave crime".

"Those who committed the grave crime will be arrested under the stringent detention law, the Goondas Act. Those, detained under the act, cannot come out on bail for a period of one year," he wrote in DMK's organ 'Murasoli'.

Karunanidhi said he had asked police to take stern action against those who committed the crime without any delay.

The attack on the statue yesterday triggered angry reactions from Congress workers, who staged demonstrations at various places demanding immediate arrest of culprits involved in the act.

Condemning the incident, TNCC President K V Thangkabalu had expressed apprehensions that sympathisers of the banned LTTE could be behind it.

Karunanidhi today said the crime might have been committed by some anti-social elments as "some mischief mongers" wanted to create friction in the relationship between Congress and DMK. "The masks of these persons will be torn soon."

He claimed that yesterday's human chain, organised by DMK to press the Centre to take stern steps to prevail upon the Sri Lankan Government to stop its offensive in the Northern parts of the island nation, was a "great success".

Despite heavy rains, people from all walks of life gathered and formed one of the biggest human chain, he said and thanked all those, who co-operated with the DMK in the agitation.


Tamil Nadu film directors remanded to judicial custody

Tamil film Directors Seeman and Ameer, arrested on charges of sedition for their pro-LTTE speeches on the Sri Lankan issue, were today remanded to 15 days judicial custody by a Magistrate Court in Ramanathapuram.

Mr Seeman and Ameer were arrested here last night for allegedly speaking in support of the banned LTTE at the October 19 rally organised by the tinsel world at Rameswaram to condemn the killing of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The Q Branch police, taking cognisance of the speech, registered a case in Ramanathapuram, leading to their arrest.

They were taken to Madurai by air this morning from where they were taken to Ramanathapuram by road.

They were later taken to Madurai and lodged in Central Prison.


'Kashmir resolution will help solve Palestine, Lankan conflicts'

Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Sajjad Lone Saturday said a credible dialogue process between Indian administered Kashmiris and New Delhi can set an example for Palestine and Sri Lanka to resolve their conflicts through parleys. He also called for a boycott of the coming state elections in Indian administered Kashmir.

"If dialogue process in Kashmir becomes successful it can be an example for Palestine and Sri Lanka," Lone said addressing a news conference here.

The dialogue process between Kashmiri separatists and New Delhi has been as fruitless as talks between Palestinian groups fighting Israeli occupation and Tel Aviv.

The other major conflict, in Sri Lanka, has consumed more than 300,000 lives but repeated talks between insurgents fighting for freedom and government have failed.

Announcing the boycott of coming general elections in Kashmir, Lone called the exercise as an "irrelevant issue".

"New Delhi should first institutionalize the dialogue process," Lone said.

Lone who authored 'Achievable Nationhood', one of the many roadmaps to Kashmir's freedom from Indian rule, entered into parleys with New Delhi in 2006.


LTTE claims Lanka army attack killed civilians in Kilinochchi

Sri Lankan army intensified their pressure on the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi, destroying bunkers, as Tamil Tigers today claimed that the advancing government forces had launched an artillery barrage on a village, killing two civilians.

"Sri Lankan Army carried out artillery barrage last evening targeting Sivanakar, a village 7 km west of Kilinochchi. In this attack former Cooperative Society Manager Sinaiya Ramalingam (68) and his son, a schoolteacher, Ramalingam Vijiyananthan (32) were killed," a LTTE statement said.

The pro-tiger website 'Tamilnet' said the two were shifting to a safer place when the attack took place, in which a tractor driver narrowly escaped death.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry reported heavy fighting in four places around Akkarayankulm, Iranamadu, Kokavil and Kalmadu areas, all close to the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi. It did not provide any details of casualties, in keeping with the new government line.

"Troops of the 57 Division operating east and west of the Akkarayankulama Tank bund, Kilinochchi, made further strides into LTTE positions inflicting heavy damages to LTTE," the ministry quoted the sources as saying.

According to military, two separate confrontations were reported in general area of Akkarayankulama while sporadic fighting were also reported northeast of the same area.

Separately, troops of the 57 Division flanking the eastern Kilinochchi battlefront and moving towards Iranamadu area met with stiff LTTE resistance at around 7.30 pm on Friday, the ministry said adding LTTE suffered heavy casualties.


Heavy fighting as Sri Lanka troops push into Tiger territory: military

Sri Lanka troops were locked in heavy combat with Tamil Tiger guerrillas in the island's north where soldiers made several advances into rebel-held territory, the defence ministry said Saturday.

Two separate confrontations were reported southwest of the Tamil Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi on Friday and sporadic fighting continued afterward, the ministry said.

"Heavy fighting at the Akkarayankulam and Iranamadu areas has been reported between troops and LTTE since Friday morning," the ministry said.

It gave no details of casualties and said the authorities had decided not to release figures of those killed and wounded in the latest round of fighting.

The ministry said earlier this week it would not divulge details about casualties because of the "need for operational security." The announcement came just after the military reported 36 soldiers were killed in the worst single loss for security forces in the past six months.

There was no immediate word from the Tigers about the latest fighting, but the guerrillas in a statement said military shelling had killed two civilians south of Kilinochchi.

Defence ministry maps show troops are about 10 to 15 kilometres (six to 10 miles) southwest of Kilinochchi.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since 1972, when the LTTE launched its campaign to carve out an independent state in the Sinhalese-majority island of 20 million people.


Lanka to censor war casualty figures

The Sri Lanka government on Friday decided to censor casualty figures coming out of the northern battle fields where its armed forces are locked in battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Independent verification of the fighting and casualties is anyway not possible because journalists are banned from the war zone. Both the LTTE and the Lankan defence ministry are accused of exaggerating enemy casualties and underreporting their own.

Also, claims made by the armed forces about LTTE casualty often do not match their own estimate of the Tigers’ strength.

The LTTE also seldom publishes the casualty figures of their own cadres. Friday's decision would make it even more difficult to get the correct picture of the war situation. The defence ministry said that it decided “suspend the reporting of all casualty figures in relation to the ongoing counter terrorist operation in Wanni. This is in consideration of the continuing advance of the security forces there and the need for operational security, whereby such reportage may impede the successful accomplishment of the mission.”

Meanwhile, an additional 51 lorries carrying essential services and goods were dispatched to the conflict areas on Friday, said Essential Services Commissioner S B Divarathne.


Military solution in Sri Lanka very difficult: U.S.

Asks parties to accept political solution without waiting for LTTE defeat

The United States is encouraging all parties in Sri Lanka to accept a political solution to the conflict without waiting for a military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam.

In an interactive session at the University of Madras on Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake rejected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s view that political talks could come only after the LTTE was wiped out or disarmed. “A military solution is going to be very, very difficult,” he said, citing Sri Lankan Army Chief Sarath Fonseka’s statement that even if the Army occupied all of northern Sri Lanka, a residual guerrilla force of at least a thousand LTTE fighters would go underground.

Mr. Blake made it clear that the ruling and opposition parties needed to agree on the All Parties Representative Committee’s blueprint for constitutional reform. “The greatest failure of the last 25 years has been the failure of the main Sinhalese parties to reach agreement,” he said adding 90 per cent of the APRC document had found consensus.
Three-fold benefits

“The U.S. view is that the [Sri Lankan] government could further isolate and weaken the LTTE if it articulates now its vision for a political solution,” said Mr. Blake. Moving forward on a political solution would have three-fold benefits — to reassure 2,00,000 refugees in the Vanni region that they can move south and aspire to a better future; to disprove the LTTE’s claim of being the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamils; and to persuade Tamils overseas to stop funding the LTTE.

A political solution could also improve the human rights situation “that has disproportionately affected Tamils” and would hasten reconciliation, he added.

Mr. Blake felt that India and the U.S. could use their strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka, where the two countries “share exactly the same perspectives, the same values.” While refusing to comment on the demands in Tamil Nadu for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador noted that “with Indian help and leadership, we have a good chance of making progress on this.”

So far as the U.S. was concerned, he ruled out any military intervention on the island. In fact, the U.S. recently effected a complete freeze on all military assistance to Sri Lanka after concerns were voiced about the human rights situation and the use of child soldiers. However, the U.S. earlier “helped the Sri Lankan military defend itself against terrorism,” by supplying a maritime radar system and 10 inflatable boats to the navy.

The American ban on the LTTE, which was followed by several other countries, also cut the flow of money and weapons to the Tigers, the result of which could be seen in their recent military defeats, he said.

Today, most American aid to Sri Lanka was either humanitarian in nature or was focussed on building the economic and political infrastructure of the eastern part of the island. This year, the U.S. had contributed $32.7 million worth of food and other commodities through the Food for Peace programme, said Mr. Blake.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sri Lankan government minister says India has a right to intervene in the ethnic crisis

Periyasamy Chandrasekaran, Leader of the Upcountry People's Front and a Member of Parliament for the Nuwara Eliya district today said India's intervention in the Sri Lankan terrorism issue cannot be avoided.

Speaking at the parliament this morning Minister Chandrasekaran said at the moment most of the civilians in the Kilinochchi district are facing more difficulties due to the on going war in Northern region.

He said there are no political solutions to the ethnic conflicts in the world.

Minister Chandrasekaran pointed out due to this conflict many Tamil leaders in the country have been killed in the past decades.

"In this situation people in the Tamil Nadu have a certain rights to intervene in the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka," the Minister added.